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File-sharers try to create .p2p domain

Kevin Murphy, November 30, 2010, Domain Registries

A move to create a .p2p top-level domain outside of the regular DNS root is under way.

Following the outcry over the US government’s seizure of 82 .com domain names this weekend, a group of coders have decided to create a namespace not overseen by ICANN (which had nothing to do with it).

It’s not entirely clear to me how many projects have launched.

There’s a blog over here that talks about a “distributed DNS” that would be “decentralized”, but this new wiki seems to be limited to the idea of launching .p2p as a TLD.

(Interestingly, dot-p2p.org appears to have been registered several days prior to the weekend’s domain name seizures)

The .p2p project plans to create an application that would intercept all DNS requests for .p2p domains and route them via a peer-to-peer network rather than the user’s regular DNS servers.

This presumably means that the entire .p2p zone file could wind up being stored on endpoints, which sounds like a scalability challenge to me.

More problematic is the the issue of “decentralization”, which is of course critical when you’re talking about trustworthy DNS. It can be summed up in this sentence:

“Hello, I’m bankofamerica.com.”

If anybody can claim to own any domain name, you need to be able to figure out who’s telling the truth.

The .p2p initiative seems to be dealing with this by, um, centralizing control over .p2p domain assignments to a free “registrar” at nic.p2p.

To prevent warehousing, registrants would need to prove they already own the string in another TLD in order to register the equivalent .p2p domain.

The project is obviously in its very early stages, as demonstrated by this wiki page, which tries to figure out the problem of decentralization using some kind of trust/voting system.

Here’s an example of the lack of thought that seems to have gone into it so far:

A small conflict, not malicious

1. Alice assigns fbi.p2p -> 1.1.1.1.
2. Bob propagates the assignment to his node, because he trusts Alice.
3. Dave assigns fbi.p2p -> 2.2.2.2. Conflict created.
4. Carol sees the conflict and:
– Decides to just follow the decision of her trustees and assigns fbi.p2p -> 2.2.2.2, or
– Does not create any assignment. There will be a warning and she will try to work out the problem with others.
5. Everyone will try to agree on a solution.

The page also currently includes this beauty:

Botnet-driven attack

1. Chuck owns a botnet and uses 10^6+ zombies to game the system.
2. Shitload of fake request need to be disproved
3. …
4. Problem? :U

The project seems like a heck of a lot of wheel-reinventing in order to solve a problem that doesn’t exist.

Is this the domain name industry’s first music video?

Kevin Murphy, November 30, 2010, Domain Registries

DotAfricaConnect is pretty serious about its plan for .africa.

The company yesterday released this music video to promote its top-level domain bid. Unlike most corporate anthems, this one is actually not terrible, despite the dodgy editing.

The singer, Patricia Kihoro, appears to be the former winner of an African TV talent show. It mystifies me how few people in the room seem to be paying her, and her dancers, any attention.

Domain universe breaks through 200 million

Kevin Murphy, November 29, 2010, Domain Registries

VeriSign is reporting that the number of registered domain names worldwide broke through the 200 million mark in the third quarter.

There were 202 million domains at the end of September, according to the company’s Domain Name Industry Brief, which was published today.

Over half of those domains, 103 million names in total, can be found in the .com and .net namespaces that VeriSign manages.

In a not-so-subtle plug for VeriSign’s 2011 growth strategy, the company also declared that the next ten years will be “The Decade of the International Internet”.

In the coming decade, the Internet will continue to become a ubiquitous, multi-cultural tool, fueled in part by the adoption of IDNs. By enabling online content and businesses to be represented in local scripts and languages, IDNs help the Internet to expand the power of technology to regions and cultures, and connect the world in new ways. Over the past year, several new IDNs for ccTLDs have been approved. The next step will be approval of IDNs for generic Top Level Domains (gTLDs).

The company, of course, plans to apply to ICANN to operate IDN versions of .com and .net, although it has not to date discussed openly which languages or strings it wants.

The VeriSign report also says that ccTLD registrations grew 2.4%, compared to the same quarter last year, to 79.2 million domains.

I expect this growth would have been tempered had it not been for the relaunch of .co, which occurred during the quarter, but it does not merit a mention in the report.

The report also reveals that .info has overtaken .cn in the biggest-TLD charts, although this is due primarily to the plummeting number of registrations in the Chinese ccTLD.

Rejected Bulgarians want ICANN appeal

Kevin Murphy, November 29, 2010, Domain Registries

A handful of Bulgarian internet users have asked ICANN for the right to appeal the rejection of .бг, the proposed Cyrillic country-code top-level domain.

ICANN has received five emails from from the country in the last week, all expressing frustration that .бг (.bg) was turned down with no public explanation and no right to reply.

The string was rejected in May due to what ICANN determined was its confusing visual similarity with Brazil’s ccTLD, .br.

Polls of the Bulgarian people have been unable to find consensus on a suitable alternative, and the government has repeatedly said it would like to apply again or appeal.

Whether to introduce a right of appeal for rejected applicants is one of the topics ICANN is currently soliciting comments on as part of the review of its IDN ccTLD Fast Track program.

Bulgarian freelance developer Stoyan Danev wrote in his comment:

The Bulgarian community has clearly demonstrated that selecting another string is unacceptable and if the proposed one is not approved, Bulgaria will remain WITHOUT an IDN ccTLD. This is really against the ICANN policy of making Internet accessible to everyone.

He questioned whether .бг really is confusable with .br, linking to the Unicode web site, which suggests that б can be confused with 6 but not b, to prove his point.

Another commenter suggested that that the .бг registry could make it a matter of policy to only accept registrations at the second level that include at least one uniquely Cyrillic character.

Olympics tells ICANN to abandon new TLD launch or get sued

Kevin Murphy, November 29, 2010, Domain Registries

The International Olympic Committee has threatened to sue ICANN unless it gives IOC trademarks special protection in its new top-level domains program.

The IOC’s critique of ICANN’s new Applicant Guidebook is the first to be filed by a major organization in the current public comment period.

The organization has accused ICANN of ignoring it, preferring instead to take its policy cues from the domain name industry, and said it should “abandon its current timeline” for the launch.

ICANN currently plans to start accepting TLD applications May 30, 2011.

Calling the guidebook “inherently flawed”, the IOC’s director general Urs Lacotte wrote:

If these critical issues are not fully resolved and ICANN chooses not to place the Olympic trademarks on the reserved names list, then the IOC and its National Olympic Committees are prepared to employ all available legislative, regulatory, administrative and judicial mechanisms to hold ICANN accountable for damage caused to the Olympic movement.

(That language looks like it could have been cut-n-paste from a separate letter from the financial services industry, which I reported on last week).

The IOC said that it has opposed the new TLD program 11 times – asking for its trademarks to be placed on the AGB’s reserved strings lists, but received no response.

Special pleading? Perhaps, but the IOC’s trademarks are already specifically protected by legislation in numerous countries, including the US, UK, Canada and China.

The IOC also wants stronger trademark protection mechanisms, such as mandatory typosquatting protections in sunrise periods and extending dispute proceedings to registrars.

Expect many more such missives to start showing up on the ICANN web site over the next 11 days before the ICANN board of directors meets to approve the AGB in Cartagena.

This may be the last chance many organizations get to ask for the changes they want in the AGB before the first round of new TLD applications opens, and I expect them to seize it with both hands.

Minds + Machines to raise $4.7m for new TLDs

Kevin Murphy, November 25, 2010, Domain Registries

Top Level Domain Holdings plans to raise £3 million ($4.7 million) in a stock sale to help finance the TLD aspirations of its main business, Minds + Machines.

The funds would almost double the cash reserves TLDH has on tap, which currently amount to $5.5 million, according to StockMarketWire.com.

Recently appointed CEO Antony Van Couvering said in a statement that ICANN’s recent decision to allow registries and registrars to vertically integrate had a bearing on the decision to raise funds:

Having reviewed ICANN’s Final Proposed Applicant Guidebook, and in view of the ICANN Board’s historic decision to do away with cross-ownership restrictions between registries and registrars, we believe that the timing is right for additional investment by TLDH. ICANN’s registry-registrar decision means that additional gTLD business models are now viable, and we have already seen a marked increase in interest from prospective new clients. We intend to make sure we have the resources to take advantage of this opportunity.

M+M is already associated with new TLD applications including .gay and .eco, both of which are expected to be contested by other applicants.

TLDH is listed on London’s small-cap Alternative Investment Market. The announcement of the placement can be found here.

Gaming scandal hits Russian domain launch

Kevin Murphy, November 24, 2010, Domain Registries

The launch of Russia’s .РФ country-code top-level domain, widely lauded as a runaway success story, has been tainted by a registrar gaming scandal.

Government antitrust authorities are investigating six registrars over claims that they registered tens of thousands of premium domains in order to auction them to end users, according to local reports.

The registrars in question are thought to have colluded, using each others’ services to register the names, hence the competition probe.

The largest registrar, Regional Network Information Center, aka RU-Center, is alleged to have registered 65,000 domains during the first days of the .РФ launch in order to profit from auctions.

These domains have been frozen pending resolution of the dispute. The registry, Coordination Center for TLD, is thinking about cancelling the registrars’ accreditations.

RU-Center is quoted as saying, laughably, that the premium domains were registered in order to prevent cybersquatting.

In a statement, the registry questions the public good of registering проститутки.рф, which apparently means “prostitute.rf” and is currently asking $190,000 at auction.

The investigation certainly takes the gloss off the launch, which has so far racked up well over 500,000 registered domains and was put forth as case study for internationalized domain names.

Governments still want new TLD morality veto

Kevin Murphy, November 23, 2010, Domain Registries

ICANN’s Governmental Advisory Committee still wants to block “controversial” new top-level domains on morality grounds.

In a letter to ICANN chairman Peter Dengate Thrush, a copy of which I have obtained, the GAC makes it clearer than ever that it wants national laws to play a part in approving new TLDs.

It also suggests that national governments should be able to pre-screen strings before applications are filed, to give applicants “early warning” that they are stepping into controversial waters.

The letter draws the battle lines for what could be some heated debate at ICANN’s meeting in Cartagena next month.

Given that the letter does not appear to have been published by ICANN yet, I will quote liberally.

Under the heading “Universal Resolvability of the DNS”, GAC interim chair Heather Dryden, the Canadian representative on the committee, wrote:

Due to uncertainties regarding the effectiveness of ICANN’s review and objections procedures, a country may feel compelled to block a new gTLD at the national level that it considers either objectionable or that raises national sensitivities.

To date, there do not appear to be controversial top level domains that have resulted in significant or sustained blocking by countries.

The GAC believes it is imperative that the impact on the continued security, stability and universal resolvability of the domain name systems of the potential blocking at the national level of the new gTLD strings that are considered to be objectionable or that raise national sensitivities be assessed prior to introducing new gTLDs.

The letter carries on to say that the GAC will “seek advice from the technical community” on the issue.

Dryden wrote that there should be a “prior review” process that would be able to identify strings that are “contrary to national law, policy or regulation” or “refer to religions, ethnicity, languages or other cultural identifiers that might raise national sensitivities”.

It sounds like the GAC envisions a pre-screening process, before new TLD applications are officially filed, similar to the “expressions of interest” concept that ICANN abandoned in March.

What TLDs this process would capture is unclear. The GAC letter notes by way of example that “several governments restrict the registration of certain terms in their ccTLDs”.

In practical terms, this would raise question marks over TLDs such as “.gay”, which would quite clearly run contrary to the policies of many national governments.

(As I reported earlier this month, the recently relaunched .so registry currently bans “gay”, “lesbian” and related terms at the second level.)

There’s more to be reported on the the implications of this letter, particularly with regards the work of ICANN’s “morality and public order” policy working group and the GAC’s relationship with ICANN in general.

Watch this space.

Afilias to raise .info prices

Kevin Murphy, November 23, 2010, Domain Registries

Afilias has notified ICANN that it plans to raise the maximum annual registration fee for a .info domain next year.

The new price, which will come into effect July 1, 2011, will be $7.42. It’s been $6.75 since November 2008, although the registry often offers deep discounts on new registrations.

Afilias’ contract with ICANN allows it to raise prices by up to 10%, which it appears to be doing in this case.

At least two other other gTLDs have already said they plan to up their maximum prices next year.

NeuStar’s .biz fee will rise by $0.45 to $7.30 in April. PIR’s .org will start costing registrars a maximum of $7.21 at the same time.

Czech people don’t want IDNs

Kevin Murphy, November 22, 2010, Domain Registries

While Russia’s recently launched all-Cyrillic domain names may be going down a storm, it seems the idea of internationalized domain names does not have international appeal.

A survey of businesses and individuals in the Czech Republic shows a serious lack of support for IDNs under the .cz TLD.

A shocking 87% of organizations, along with 62% of internet users, surveyed by registry CZ.NIC said they were not in favor of .cz IDNs.

Czech uses the Latin alphabet, of course, albeit with a liberal dose of diacritics – the local name of the country is Česká Republika – so there’s less of a pressing need for IDNs than in other nations.

The survey results were less surprising to those in the know. Ondrej Filip, executive director of the .cz registry, said in a statement:

The repeated refusal of IDN was not a surprise. The last three surveys had very similar results and there have been no signs over the last two years pointing towards a change in this trend. Quite the opposite – in the long term, the negative attitude of the Czech Internet public toward IDN is growing.

The results showed slightly growing support for IDNs among individual users and growing opposition from businesses. Some objected on the basis that it would make life hard for foreign visitors.